Posts in category Pre-marriage

Men are the first domino



MenDomino3

We need to have Jesus disciple us to be who He made us to be.

Then, we need to disciple men to know their identity and role as men.

Then, marriage will be men’s great interest.

Then, the family will bond, heal, and thrive.

The church will be strong.

Its work and witness will be powerful.

The weak will be protected, not exploited.

Christ will be glorified.

Christ is the first man, the ultimate man, and He is everything.

The way Christ lived as a man is how we learn to be a positive influence on others, and a catalyst for positive change as a man.  Christ forgives, defines, and empowers us.  He disciples us so we can disciple others.

Within your marriage is where you have the greatest opportunity to emulate Christ. As you bond with and love your wife, you are modeling Him who received us as a groom does his bride, faithfully loving and bringing out the best in us.

That devotion in marriage is the foundation for a strong home, where children are bolstered in their faith. That faith follows these children out of the home and into life. That faith becomes the strength of the church. And a vibrant church reaches out and cares for the weak, the lonely, the lost. It reflects the love of Christ out in the world.

Men, our world needs us, but it starts with our need for Christ and how we live that out in the closest relationships — with those in our home.

Loving our kids starts with loving their mom. If you are married, put your wife first in a Christ-like love. If you’re a dad but aren’t married to the mother of your children, you still need to respect and honor the structure that provides stability for children by honoring their mom. And by honoring the cooperative bond of parenthood.

When it comes to thriving at home, none of us are self-sufficient. We all need Christ.  I know that I drift, falter and fail unless I commit to walk with Him. To be effective as a man, each of us needs to grow in the knowledge of Christ through His word, through prayer, through obedience, and through fellowship with mentors and other men.

Copyright © 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read a post by Jeff Kemp , “Men are the first domino,” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistMake a list of the people in your life who need you. In what ways can you be a better influencer?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistWatch Jeff Kemp and Brian Doyle talk about the theology behind men ministering to other men.

STEPPass - 10-point checklist

Be part of the Stepping Up 10-week series study with other men, to help improve your influence.

 

 

I still do … every day



I still do ... every dayToday, I begin my 30th year of marriage to Ellie. Am I surprised we made it this far?

Not at all.

If I had it to do all over again, would I still say “I do?”

Without a doubt. I still do.

Did I comprehend all I was agreeing to when I said those words so many years ago?

Not even close.

After five years of dating, Ellie and I were still deeply in love on that perfect May morning when we made our vows before dozens of witnesses in a beautiful church overlooking the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  Even though we both meant what we said, neither of us really knew what we meant when we made those promises to love and stay committed to each other …

– through health and sickness,

– wealth and poverty,

– good and bad,

– until death separated us.

Little did we know that God would add to our family within the week. No, we had no plans for Ellie to get pregnant on our honeymoon, but nine months and five days after our wedding, our first son was born. And less than four months after his birth, Ellie was a nursing, stay-at-home mom with a suddenly unemployed husband. That wasn’t in our plans, but it was in our vows.

As a bride-to-be, Ellie had wanted to have four children, but when we said our vows, we weren’t thinking that God would add that fourth child just one week after our sixth anniversary. By then, we realized that having children was not going to be a problem for us.

Or so we thought.

Three of Ellie’s next four pregnancies ended in miscarriage. The one that did go full term came with lots of complications, including Ellie permanently losing all hearing in her left ear. Those were heart-wrenching times. But as God promises, weeping lasts for a nighttime, but joy comes in the morning.

Four years later, Ellie was pregnant with our seventh and final child when our family was devastated by the line-of-duty death of my Maui Police Officer brother. She and I never dreamed we’d ever go to Hawaii, much less to bury my brother there.

Romantic vacations haven’t really been part of our marriage history. In fact, most of my paychecks have only been enough to cover the basic necessities of a large family. There have even been some times where the fridge and pantry were almost bare. But God has always provided. Even though there have only been a few weeks of the past 29 years where I haven’t been employed, most of those jobs have been in journalism or ministry, neither of which is known for high salaries. When it comes to “for richer or poorer,” we’ve seen a lot of one, but not much of the other.

It wasn’t in our plans, but it was in our vows.

When a couple stands at the altar before their closest friends and most committed family members, everything seems perfect; the lifetime covenant they’re making to each other seems like a blank check drawn on the bank of happiness. They don’t foresee a time when the account is in danger of overdraft. They can hardly imagine the day when all those friends and family standing with them in the beginning aren’t there to help them through those emotional zero-balance days.

But the God who created them as individuals and brought them together in the covenant of marriage is there every minute of every day of their married life.

Ellie and I weren’t practicing believers when we married back in 1985. But God in His grace drew us to Himself. Each of us – independent of the other – made a personal commitment to Christ within 15 months of our vows. In the early years of marriage and parenting, we were able to grow in oneness with each other and with God.

We learned the significance of our marriage covenant as we learned how God covenanted with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and most importantly, through the New Covenant in Christ. Because God would not break His covenants, Ellie and I determined never to entertain the notion of divorce.

When I think back to the day we proclaimed our vows, in many ways I feel like I’m so much less impressive of a man than the one who boldly promised to love and cherish Ellie every day of his life. I haven’t been the best provider. I’m not a strong leader. I’m moody and easily frustrated and way too self-absorbed. And I know Ellie has her own list of ways she falls short of the woman with all those lofty vows nearly three decades ago.

“I do” is not just something you say to your spouse on your wedding day. “I do” is every word you say and every deed you do for the rest of your marriage. That’s what “I do” really means.

Ellie and I have had 10,592 days worth of opportunities to experience how much harder it is to say your vows on any given marriage day than on your wedding day. No matter how much we love each other, we let our guards down; selfishness is always ready to make an exception to a vow.

It takes a supernatural empowering of God’s Spirit for me to realize that marriage is more about what I can do for Ellie, than what she should be doing do for me. God promises – when I ask Him – to empower me with His Spirit, freeing me from the slavery to myself in order to love my wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. Only through the limitless grace and unconditional love of His Spirit working in me can I fulfill my vows to Ellie like I promised to do back on May 18, 1985.

And it’s only by His Spirit that I can continue to be true to my promise for the next 30 years, or however many the Lord sees fit to give us together.

Ellie, I still do.

NEXT STEPS

1. To learn more about the value of keeping your vows, read Dennis Rainey’s article, “Five Ways to Keep Your Marriage Covenant.”

2. Listen to Doug and Patty Dailey talk about the crisis in their marriage on FamilyLife Today®.

3. Plan a weekend getaway with your spouse to spend time together and build your marriage – attend a Weekend to Remember® or one of the upcoming I Still Do® events in Chicago, Portland, or Washington, D.C.

 

 

21 things a man needs to know about marriage (part 3)



This is the final installment in a three-part series. The full first part and second part of 21 things a man needs to know about marriage is here, but we’ve listed the first 14 things from those posts here.

  1. A man needs to know that the ultimate team is marriage.
  2. A man needs to know the difference between being a consumer and an investor in life, in relationships, and marriage.
  3. A man needs to know the Christ-like role of servant, husband, and lover.
  4. A man needs to know that marriage is meant to mature a man into Christ-like character.
  5. A man needs to know the meaning of love.
  6. A man needs to know that a marriage and family depend upon God as their maker.  
  7. A man needs to understand sexuality as God’s good creation, distinct from its counterfeits.
  8. A man needs to know that the key to great sex is exclusivity.
  9. A man needs to know that marriages typically have a one or two year “honeymoon era.”
  10. A man needs to know that living together and having sex before marriage uses up a good portion of the “honeymoon era” euphoria. 
  11. A man needs to know that commitment is a key to success in all of life, and especially in relationships with a woman.  
  12. A man needs to know that marriage is not easy.
  13. A man needs to know that the purpose of marriage is less to make you happy, than to make you holy.
  14. A man needs to know that God gives authority and responsibility to a husband to make the marriage thrive and last.

things a man needs to know about marriage15. A man needs to know that he can change his marriage by changing himself.  He can make himself a better husband by making himself a more consistent and devoted follower of Jesus.  If he wants to improve any aspect of his marriage, family or parenting, the solution lies in deepening his daily commitment to God.  The path to build a great marriage or heal a marriage is to humble one’s will, to let the Holy Spirit take control of him and to obey Christ.

16. A man needs to know that romance is created and sustained intentionally.  Thinking about what she likes, remembering what is important to her, setting things up the way she prefers … these are all critical.  In dating and various stages of life, romance can spontaneously happen, but for the long term, it must be deliberately planned and created.  If a man wants to be a leader, this is an area in which to lead.  It leads to good things.

17. A man needs to know that divorce is avoidable.  He understands that nothing is impossible for God, and he humbles himself to admit and repent from the ways he fell short in loving his wife in the past, so he can excel at loving her from this day forward.

18. A man needs to know that he can recover from a wife’s affair because he has the power to forgive.  Jesus forgave all his sin, and he is called to do the same with his wife.  Furthermore, he seeks to understand what led his wife to be unfaithful, even if it means admitting his own failure. Usually a man breaks his vow to choose, love, and protect her before a woman breaks her vow to be faithful.

Note: if you have an affair, you don’t have control over whether you can recover because you can’t force a wife’s forgiveness.

19. A man needs to know that even the worst things can be redeemed for deeper purposes.  Romans 5:3-5 reminds us to rejoice and find value in tribulation, loss, and suffering because tribulation brings perseverance, and perseverance brings proven character like that of Jesus, and proven character brings hope, and hope does not disappoint because God’s love is poured out to us by His Holy Spirit.

Face crises and trials and suffering straight on with Christ and a few close teammates. A man steps up by surrendering to Jesus Christ and persevering in making Him the center and Lord of his life.

20. A man needs to know that humbling yourself to your wife is the gutsiest and most successful way to heal her heart and your frequently-compromised relationship. A man with courage and wisdom will never overlook his wife’s hurt feelings.  And he’ll seek to overlook the disrespectful words she blurts out in reaction to how he hurt her feelings.

When you are in conflict, don’t wait for things to blow over.  Don’t try to point out her fault.  Don’t try to minimize the situation.  And don’t defend yourself.  Instead, be a leader.  Start the apology.  A great starting point is, “I was wrong.  I hurt you.  Please forgive me?”

21. A man needs to know that a wife wants you to lead her, but will tend to lead and control you if you don’t lead and initiate.  Leadership starts with your character and your devotion to Christ.  Your walk with God determines the quality of your love and leadership as a husband.

Seek God.  Read His word in the Bible.  Pray for Him to shape and lead you.  Humble yourself before Him.  Seek a mentor or group to help you grow and become a good husband.

Leadership of a wife is humility before God, initiating teamwork with your wife, praying with her every day and praying for your family.  Most guys I know well are like me in this: If you’re frustrated with your wife and your marriage, the solution lies in getting back into Jesus and His Word!

21 things a man needs to know about marriage (part 2)



This is the second in a three-part series. The full first part of  21 things a man needs to know about marriage is here, but we’ve listed the first seven things from that post here.

  1. A man needs to know that the ultimate team is marriage.
  2. A man needs to know the difference between being a consumer and an investor in life, in relationships, and marriage.
  3. A man needs to know the Christ-like role of servant, husband, and lover.
  4. A man needs to know that marriage is meant to mature a man into Christ-like character.
  5. A man needs to know the meaning of love.
  6. A man needs to know that a marriage and family depend upon God as their maker.  
  7. A man needs to understand sexuality as God’s good creation, distinct from its counterfeits.

things a man needs to know about marriage

8. A man needs to know that the key to great sex is exclusivity.  The modern consumer mindset tricks a man into thinking that more sources of sexual stimulation will satisfy him.  But like a drug, they thrill but do not satisfy.  Sexual entertainment, images, and illicit sex erode rather than enhance sexual joy in a marriage.

To be a great lover is to practice with only one woman for life.   It is to be generous, exclusive, and serving; not greedy, distracted, and taking.  A great relationship and sexual relationship are connected in marriage, and that only happens when a man’s sole target of sexual affections, imaginations, and enjoyment is his wife.

9. A man needs to know that marriages typically have a one- or two-year “honeymoon era.”  This is a period of semi-blind euphoria that makes the relationship magnetic and easier. It’s as if our Creator gives that to us humans to get us jump-started in marriage.  Couples should know that when the euphoria wears off and they eventually settle into normality, the different feelings they experience do not indicate that they married the wrong person or are not “in love” anymore.

10. A man needs to know that living together and having sex before marriage uses up a good portion of the “honeymoon era” euphoria. It often causes the onset of reality after marriage to begin almost immediately after the wedding, depending on how long the couple had been living and sleeping together.  Research shows that divorce and issues of mistrust are more common for those who cohabit before marriage than for those who do not.  Cohabiting is not a “smart start” or “good practice” for marriage.

11. A man needs to know that commitment is a key to success in all of life, and especially in relationships with a woman.  One way of defining commitment in marriage is that it means never considering divorce. If you know that you won’t be leaving or divorcing, it forces you to face differences and problems and work through them.

In marriage it is the security of commitment that allows a woman to feel peace in the relationship.  The assurance of a husband’s commitment helps a woman entrust herself to him emotionally and sexually.

12. A man needs to know that marriage is not easy.  Marriage is not automatic, and it’s often difficult.  The euphoria of romantic infatuation in the first years of marriage fades, requiring the mature resolve to behave lovingly and invest relationally to build a deeper bond than infatuation.  Marriage will take intentional and continual effort.

13. A man needs to know that the purpose of marriage is less to make you happy, than to make you holy.   Now it’s true that a good marriage to a good woman can make you happier than most anything else on earth.  But if your goal is to be happy, then you will be focused on yourself, and you will damage your character and your relationships.

If you aim to be holy — like Jesus, not like a monk — you will invite God to change you.  You will allow your marriage relationship to change you and crush your selfish will and defensive pride. You will experience true oneness in your marriage — you’ll be deepest friends, intimate allies, generous lovers, caring providers, complementary partners, spiritual enhancers. (Thanks to Gary Thomas for the idea)

14. A man needs to know that God gives authority and responsibility to a husband to make the marriage thrive and last.  He is to steward and shepherd himself and his wife’s union.  He is to be proactive at assisting God in healing her past wounds, creating oneness in their bond and assuring her (and their children) of his love for her.

Women are natural responders when men initiate in love, prayer  and humility.  Men must not be passive, arrogant, distracted, or controlling.  A man will not point the finger at his wife’s behavior or shortcomings, but will examine his history as a husband and ask God to change Him.  His heart, his care and his initiative is the key to his wife’s responses and the marriage’s health.

Be watching for part 3.

21 things a man needs to know about marriage



In a culture of counterfeits and mistruths, marriage needs to be re-branded as an awesome, noble, and challenging adventure.

Guys have been blindsided in our culture.  We don’t see the path to manhood, and we often don’t know how to view women, sex, relationships, marriage, and our role as husbands.

CoupleFacetoFaceWheatFieldA key to the problems guys and men face is that we don’t understand the North Star of relationships.   It’s the gold standard of selfless love, the blueprint for building a family and blessing your children.  What’s that North Star?  Knowing Jesus Christ and His purpose for marriage, and trusting in His strength to make a lasting relationship possible.

Marriage needs to be re-explained.  It needs to be re-branded as an awesome, noble, and challenging adventure. Our manhood, our happiness and our children’s future depend on marriage — yours, mine, and everybody else’s.

In a culture of counterfeits and mistruths, it’s important to understand what marriage is about.  As you read through the following list, ask God to remake you and help you understand what it means to be a man and a husband.  Let’s value marriage and relate well to our wives, whether we’re married yet, or preparing for that woman.

1. A man needs to know that the ultimate team is marriage.  It’s the union and oneness of man and woman in lifelong covenant.  It’s the team that anchors a family.   It’s a bonded relationship that mirrors God’s sacrificial, unconditional, lasting love for his children (those who by faith have accepted His sacrifice and adoption into his eternal family).

2.  A man needs to know the difference between being a consumer and an investor in life, in relationships, and marriage.  Don’t let an advertising-saturated consumer society make you act like a consumer in relationships.  Decide to add value to a wife, not take value.

Just like great quarterbacks serve receivers, and great receivers serve quarterbacks, we need to be investors, not childish consumers, takers, or complainers.  We are to be modeled after Jesus, the ultimate relationship investor.  He is the definition of a man … responsible, initiating, courageous, self-sacrificing, healing, peacemaking, justice-doing, other-centered, not self-centered, loving others in ways that add value and nobility to them.

Before he is married, a great husband will be a relationship investor who will build friendship that adds value into the life of a young woman, her self-esteem, and her potential to serve God.  He will channel his sexual desires and expression into devotion to God and commitment to one wife for life.  He will marry and be sexually exclusive — only having eyes, imagination, and sexual intimacy with one wife.  Ask yourself this question daily: “Would I want to marry me?”

3. A man needs to know the Christ-like roles of servant, husband, and lover.  He is to be an investor in his wife, and he sacrifices himself for her best. He defines his manhood as pursuing purity in Christ, chastity before marriage, and enthusiastic fidelity in marriage.

4. A man needs to know that marriage is meant to mature a man into Christ-like character.  It can help conform him to the image of Christ, reshaping his will and identity into union with, and deference toward, his wife.  This is like the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who honor, defer to and glorify each other.

The friendship of marriage helps each spouse become a better version of themselves, closer to what God designed and redeemed them to be.  They must face the truth about themselves — their strengths and their imperfections.  They will face conflict and difficulty and must grow empathy and teamwork.  Selfishness must melt away if they are to become healthy, strong, and mature together.

5. A man needs to know the meaning of love.   God defines love not by how much you want to receive, but by how much you are willing to give of yourself—your will, your freedom, your time, your emotions, your forgiveness, your resources.  The model is Jesus, who demonstrated love for us by dying for us while we were yet sinners.

A husband does this by choosing his wife as a priority in his life over all other pursuits, possessions, and distractions — regardless of whether she is kind, lovable, or respectful.  Love brings out the best in her.  A man initiates love, rather than waiting for or demanding respect or kind treatment.  Love is not dependent upon feelings.  Decisions and choices to love can regenerate the feelings of love.

6. A man needs to know that a marriage and family depend upon God as their maker.  God is the authority.  He provides the blueprints for marriage and is the power source of love, wisdom, and health.  God can heal any marriage if the persons submit themselves to God and let Him change them.

7. A man needs to understand sexuality as God’s good creation, distinct from its counterfeits. He understands that sexuality makes sense in the context of union to God and the union of marriage.  Outside that context it’s often reduced to moralism, rules, suppression, secrecy, illicit imagination, temptation, and shame.  Or, commonly, it is reduced to a consumer experience — materialistic self-interest, physical gratification, entertainment, techniques.  This causes shallow, stunted human bonding, untold stories of abuse, damage, abandonment, and fragmented families.

Watch for Part 2 next week.

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